It’s a helluva thing. Loss. Family. How we communicate with our loved ones.
I had the privilege to host our second Otter Trail mindful walk this last week of May 2021. It was a group of friends, a couple, complete strangers…and a father with his two sons, one who was only 12 years old.
The common thread was a connection through the Entrepreneurs Organization, and as such there was an appreciation for the work that we try to do on these walks. The lesson that I personally learned was about flexibility and trusting the situation.
The weather was glorious. It is a five-day hike on tricky forest paths hugging the coast. There are numerous river crossings, challenging hills, and slippery descents. But there are also magnificent views, breathtaking natural rock formations and natural life, and a turbulent ocean reminding us to respect it as the giant waves framed our experience.
The timing for crossing the Bloukrans was tricky and required a 4 am start and a walk in the dark. And there were different skill levels and objectives in the group, which meant the walking itself was quite dispersed.
But in the evenings we got together. And we were all deeply touched by some of the things that were said. A son truly acknowledging his father, a business partner giving deep thanks to his lifelong associate. And spouses giving deep thanks to their partners, and sharing their sorrow and their journey.
It was very cool. It is the Otter, and it is a hard walk. We had a slice of drama along the way with one of our numbers going off track and what was supposed to be a simple river crossing turning into quite a production. All was well in the end…and I personally had the experience of crossing Bloukrans the easy and the hard way. A few times.
There were many little lessons along the way, here are three I think are worth sharing:
1. Timing is not everything – but hell it is useful to get it right!
90% of the group executed a 4 am start with a 9-10 am river crossing on day 4 perfectly. The fact that we had an outlier event notwithstanding, it is useful to follow the brief, and make life easier for yourself. It’s kind of like cleaning your plate – if you do it right away, it is easy. If you leave it, you have more effort and need some increased resources. And what seems like a harder task at the start turns out to make things a lot easier later.
2. We don’t tell each other how we feel enough
The words of affirmation and love that were expressed during the walk touched all of us. It reinforces the power of nature, slowing down and especially parking the tech. The ancient ritual of fireside chats, stillness, and shared effort created a beautiful space that we rarely access in our everyday life. It is what it is, life generally has too much noise. I am so grateful to do this work and assist in holding space for those moments.
3. People like nice surprises
A wonderful chap called Elvis provides a portering service for the Otter. While there is currency in carrying your own stuff, it was wonderful to have him deliver some goodies on day 4 at camp. The beer, wine, whiskey, chocolates, chips, and boerie rolls delivered were devoured by our exhausted group and contributed to a festive last evening. My inadvertent assistant was my mom, who had joined me for the ride and kindly assisted in some last-minute shopping from her home base in Plett. In the Luxury Safaris world, our partners at And Beyond calls this the culture of “delights”. We call it the “it’s how well I do not my job”. Either way, surprises are cool. We should do more of them, not just on walks.
There is a wonderful sense of purpose to creating beautiful moments and memories for folks. In a year when our ability as tourism professionals to do this has severely been curtailed, this walk reaffirmed that mission.
And success was driving back with one of the chaps, and discussing how we will one day bring back our families, once the kids are old enough. Not if. How.
I wonder what the Men’s Walk in July will offer in terms of learning and growth.